A Lesson in Sportsmanship from Joyce and Galarraga

kate boyd By: Kate Boyd

On June 2nd 2010, Armando Galarraga was about to be the 21st pitcher in Major League Baseball to pitch a perfect game. His goal fell short in the bottom of the ninth inning when Jason Donald ran to 1st base. It was clear to the crowd and both teams that Donald was out, however first base umpire Joyce called Donald safe. The crowd went crazy with anger but Joyce kept his call. At the end of the game he went back to review the play and that’s when he realized that he had made a terrible mistake.


All 18,000 people in the stadium were yelling and booing at Joyce as he walked off the field. The Tigers’ manager, Jim Leyland, watched Joyce walk out, making sure he gave an angry smirk that Joyce would never forget.


Leyland yelled out at him, “Jimmy! You blew it! You blew it, go look at the video!” The following weeks Joyce and his family received multiple threats and vulgar comments. Since that day, he has spent the rest of his life living with this mistake, and Detroit fans will never let him forget it. Sportsmanship is a big part of our favorite American Pastime that we often too easily forget. What’s even more forgotten is that sportsmanship goes beyond just the players on the field and extends to umpires, coaches, and fans. Sportsmanship involves the concern of fair-mindedness, respect, fellowship, and graciousness. Too many times we forget about sportsmanship and let our emotions get the best of us. After Joyce walked out of the review room he went to speak to Galarraga, whose perfect game he had just ruined, to apologize for his bad call. Many fans were furious with Joyce. However, everyone needs to understand that he simply made a mistake. It’s unfortunately part of the game; in baseball there will be human error and that’s just the way it is. Joyce did an excellent job of handling his mistake and that’s all you can ask from someone.

No bad call comes with an easy cost. This made Joyce one of the most hated men in Detroit. He received threats not only towards him but also towards his family members. Many coaches were upset and started to demand the use of instant replay. However, Tigers’ Manager Jim Leyland showed Joyce and everyone else how a manager should act. Leyland was understandably furious with Joyce when he made the call, but the next day after seeing how both Joyce and Galarraga handled the situation with class he responded to the need for instant replay comments by saying,

“I’m sure somebody is going to say, ‘If they had a replay on that play, the kid would have had a perfect game.’ Somebody will say something about that, but not me, that’s just the human element. It’s a good element. The umpires do a great job. There’s no question about that. They are right a whole lot more than they are wrong.”

Everyone’s negative actions and opinions on Joyce were uncalled for. Yes, it is okay to be angry at first, that’s how competitive sports are, but Joyce didn’t deserve all of what he got. What many people don’t know is that as soon as Joyce realized his error, he immediately went to Galarraga to apologize.

I highly respect the actions of Joyce in regard to the way he handled the situation. He did what any decent person would do, he apologized. Even Galarraga had been understanding. He stated, “I feel terrible. I don’t know why life works this way, but sometimes life just isn’t fair for people. He’s a good umpire.” No matter what Galarraga says, or what anyone says, Joyce is still going to live with this mistake for the rest of his life and it’s not an easy one to escape from. Besides Joyce there are many more umpires who have made their share of bad calls where we see the same kind of poor sportsmanship behavior. Like I said earlier, it happens. Tim Welke made a bad call during the Dodgers/Rockies game, calling out Dodger’s second baseman Hairston when he was visibly safe and lost them the game. Don Mattingly, the Dodgers manager was furious. Mattingly instantly argued the call by yelling at Welke and throwing his hands in front of Welke’s face showing how far off Helton’s left foot was.


Drew Coble another famous umpire, caused Atlanta a loss by calling out Ron Gant when it was also very clear that he was safe on base. One of the worst was Tim Tschida who is now famous for having a handful of at least four controversial calls in his umpire career. Furthermore, Don Denkinger takes the cake for the worst call in Major League Baseball history, not because there was anything truly significant about this call, but because of when and where it took place. Denkinger made a bad call during game 6 in the 1985 World Series that turned the game around costing the Cardinals a loss and knocking them out. Denkinger received hate mail and threats for not only the rest of his career but unfortunately the rest of his life. Denkinger explains, “You can’t imagine what a person feels when you’re written about, talked about, and then they show 13 different angles of the call in slow motion.” This was one of the extreme cases where we see fans lose their minds and any sorts of sportsmanship they ever had. Denkinger and his family received more than 250 threats and hateful letters for days after the game. One of these letters said, “YOU BLEW IT. I wish you the worst.” A second letter threatened, “DON’T EVER SHOW YOUR [BLEEPIN’] FACE AROUND ST. LOUIS.” Possibly the worst of all was Denkinger and his family arriving back at their home the day after the game to find their their street blocked off by police due to threats to burn their house down. All of the hate that Denkinger got came from anger of him not making a fair call. What people don’t understand is that what they’re doing to him isn’t fair. Umpires are humans, they make mistakes.

It’s one thing to have to live with the self-disappointment, but the tormenting from baseball fans around the country is unnecessary and truly unsportsmanlike. A true baseball fan should understand that good calls or bad calls, it’s part of the game. There shouldn’t be websites dedicated to tearing Joyce down like FireJimJoyce.com, or fans shouldn’t boo Joyce every time he walks out to a field. This famous mistaken call by Joyce should go down in history, but not in a negative aspect. This should be remembered as an event that shows true sportsmanship and should be seen as an example for players and fans all around the country.





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